Are Second-hand Shopping Malls the Secret to Sustainability?
Growing up in suburban America, one of the hallmark rite of passages as a tween was being able to window-shop at the nearest shopping mall with your closest friends. In the late 1900s and early 2000s, malls experienced heavy traffic and served as the sites for shopping, eating, and merely walking.
However, with the rise of the Internet and popularity of online shopping, shopping malls have experienced a drastic decrease in traffic. 2007, a year before the peak of the Great Recession, marked the first year since 1950 in which a new shopping mall was not constructed in the United States1. Despite surviving the recession, malls in the United States have only experienced further dwindling of the number of customers attracted. In 2019, United States retailers have announced plans to shut down 5,994 stores2.
A possible remedy to low numbers at shopping malls could be for mall owners to take advantage of the trend and increased attention to sustainability in fashion. Despite shopping malls being known for their fast-fashion stores, a new mall in Sweden is calling the traditional shopping mall into question. ReTuna, a shopping mall located in Eskiltuna, Stockholm, is the first of its kind3. Comprising of only items that have been donated by the public, ReTuna is the first mall in the world to dedicate all of its stock to second-hand items.
While this concept has not been replicated exactly in the United States, there have been efforts made to encourage shoppers to shop more sustainably. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a 20,000-square foot Re-Use center specializes in selling second-hand household and gardening items.
To combat the decrease in traffic to shopping malls and simultaneously encourage sustainable shopping practices, Macy’s has also partnered with the popular second-hand online retailer thredUP to sell secondhand clothing at 40 of its stores nationwide4. Macy’s, Inc. CEO Jeff Gennette, in his announcement of the partnership, voiced his hopes that this initiative would attract Millenials and Gen-Z shoppers to their stores.
While this partnership will only be available at 40 Macy’s stores around the nation, it will be interesting to assess whether or not this first step into making sustainability more accessible will be spread to other popular department stores. This partnership highlights the importance that the general public has placed onto sustainability. In the age of online shopping, will this initiative be enough to save shopping malls or will their decline continue?
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